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Diplomacy & Security: Israel and its Neighbors

Israel's relationships with its neighbors remain tenuous, putting the Israeli government and military on high alert. Below is an update on Israel's diplomatic and security status with the Palestinians, Iran, Egypt and Syria.

Palestinians:

Internationally, the Palestinians continue their Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) efforts. Last week, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agreed to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as an official World Heritage Site with the location "Palestine." Click here for additional background on UNESCO and the Palestinians' UDI campaign.

On the diplomatic side, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz were set to meet this past weekend. However, at the last minute, the meeting was postponed until further notice. There are conflicting assertions as to the reason the meeting was cancelled.

Economically, the Israelis have been attempting to assist the Palestinian Authority (PA) with its cash flow issues, which—if left unresolved—could lead to social collapse in the territories and substantial security risks for Israel. After the International Monetary Fund (IMF) denied a Palestinian loan request, Israel made the request on their behalf—facilitated by Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (who worked together at the IMF from the late 1990s until 2001). However, ultimately, the IMF also denied Israel's request.

Iran:

As new Iran sanctions went into effect, Iran responded with missile exercises targeting hypothetical bases of "adventurous nations,", a clear warning to the United States.

The missile test comes just days after an extremely anti-Semitic speech by Iran's Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi at an international anti-drug conference. Analysts believe that the speech will only continue to isolate Iran, which has refused to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear program.

Egypt:

Relations with Egypt have been strained since the Arab Spring, with the peace treaty in question and increasing security issues on the Sinai border. Last week the IDF announced that it would start using observation balloons to survey the Sinai in hopes of stopping the increasing number of attacks.

Diplomatically, the Muslim Brotherhood party has a history of criticizing Israel and its Palestinian border policies. However, the Muslim Brotherhood continues to reiterate respect and support of the peace treaty. It is also unlikely that the new Mohamed Morsi administration would change Egypt's border policies with Gaza for fear that Palestinians will flock to Egypt, further straining the country's economy and social services.

Syria:

As the internal conflict in Syria continues, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has increased focus on the Syrian border. "The events unfolding beyond the border increase the likelihood of terror attacks. That, in turn, necessitates preparations as far as infrastructure, training and deployment," said Brig. Gen. Tamir Hyman last Thursday.

For the time being, the rebels—mostly from extremist Islamic terror organizations—and President Bashar Assad are focused on combating each other. On a few occasions, the Syrian military has actively prevented conflicts on the border to prevent Israel from becoming involved or serving as a distraction to the domestic conflict. However, with fighting traveling closer to the border and the weakening of Assad's regime, IDF officials are preparing for the various security contingencies.

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Date: 7/3/2012 12:00:00 AM

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